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xx unsolvable; Detective puts cold cases on ice
« Reply #45 on: May 30th, 2006, 09:28am »

By Mary Lolli


The words “Never Forget Never Give Up” move in a continual loop across the screen of a computer monitor in Frank Smith’s office.

It’s a motto Smith adopted in 1999 when he accepted a daunting challenge to solve murder cases that had long before been classified as “unsolvable.”

It’s a motto that, when he becomes frustrated with seemingly futile leads, reminds Smith that the job isn’t about him — it’s about the families mourning the loss of a brutally murdered loved one and still waiting for justice and closure.

“Day in and day out, this job is about speaking for those who can no longer speak for themselves,” said Smith, a 30-year veteran of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and the lone detective assigned to its Cold Case Unit.

Sweet Success

Last week, Smith, along with his colleagues — Sheriff Richard K. Jones, county Prosecutor Robin Piper and assistant prosecutors Dan Eichel and Glen Rossi — celebrated the successful conviction of James E. Craft for the 1974 beating death of Princeton High School freshman Cynthia Beuerlein.

It was the fourth cold case Smith had solved since the unit was established and the fourth conviction.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is knowing that we’ve done something that will finally give the families involved some closure,” Smith said. “It’s hard enough losing someone in such a brutal way. But it’s all the harder to deal with when you have no answers as to who killed them and why.”

Days after Craft’s conviction, Smith was still receiving notes and calls of gratitude from Beuerlein’s family and friends.

But as rewarding as it was to solve the Beuerlein case — and as Smith puts it, “keep the animal who killed her behind bars for life” — he need only open his office door for a stark reminder of other victims and the families crying for justice and closure.

Walls of reminders

Eight framed photographs stand mounted against an otherwise unadorned cinder block wall — all homicide victims whose families still wait for answers.

Smith has dubbed the grouping “The Wall of Death.”

An adjacent wall displays the framed photographs of four murder victims and the three men convicted in their killings.

“That’s the Wall of Justice, May They Now Rest in Peace,” Smith said, noting that while the victims’ photos are labeled with their names, the photos of their killers are left nameless.

“We’re not going to do anything to give these animals recognition,” Smith said.

Smith credits organization, modern technology (including major advancements in DNA screening), cooperation with other law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor’s office with helping to bring cold cases to a successful close.

Answers for Gwinner

One of the high-profile cases Smith has been working is the 1997 murder of Alana “Laney” Gwinner, 23, of West Chester Township.

Gwinner disappeared as she was leaving the Gilmore Lanes Bowling Alley in Fairfield on Dec. 10, 1997.

Her body was found Jan. 11, 1998, floating in the Ohio River near Warsaw, Ky.

Her car has never been found.

In 2004, seven years after Gwinner’s death, Fairfield police turned the single case file over to Smith.

Today, that file has grown to 11 four-inch thick binders of new interview notes, tips, leads and other investigative documents — all of which Smith says will lead to the capture and conviction of Gwinner’s killer.

“We’ve used sonar and searched 50 nautical miles of both the Ohio and Great Miami rivers looking for Miss Gwinner’s car,” Smith said. “When the weather breaks and the river levels drop, we plan to expand that search.”

Investigators have an as-yet-unnamed suspect in the killing. Likewise, Smith said there are identifiable suspects in all of the cold cases he’s currently investigating.

“The key is making certain that our evidence, no matter how old the murder, will stand up against the scrutiny of the court and will lead to a conviction,” Smith said.

“The one thing we will never do is give up on this case or any of the cases we’ve been given,” Smith said. “We go at these cases with a vengeance because for every day these killers remain free there’s another potential victim out there.”

Contact this reporter at (513) 820-2192 or mlolli@coxohio.com.


Cold case hotline

Persons with information that could assist in solving cases currently under investigation by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit may leave tips by calling (513) 887-3029 or by logging onto the Sheriff’s Web site at www.butlersheriff.org.

http://tinyurl.com/nohj3
« Last Edit: May 30th, 2006, 09:29am by FindCarrie » User IP Logged

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xx Document, tip may prompt new search for slain Fair
« Reply #46 on: Jun 30th, 2006, 09:39am »

BY SHEILA MCLAUGHLIN | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER

FAIRFIELD - A document found in a central Florida home and a tip about the possible whereabouts of Alana "Laney" Gwinner's car might help heat up a cold case.

Gwinner disappeared Dec. 10, 1997, from the Gilmore Lanes bowling alley. The Fairfield resident's body was found in the Ohio River near Warsaw, Ky., about one month later.

Her killer hasn't been found. Neither has her car.

The search for Gwinner's missing 1993 Honda del Sol has shifted to the Ohio River upriver from Cincinnati based on information Butler County sheriff's investigators received since Tuesday, said Detective Frank Smith, who heads the cold-case squad trying to solve her slaying.

A search of a home in Florida within the last three weeks also uncovered a document that could be linked to the 23-year-old Fairfield woman's death. Smith would not describe the document nor identify the Florida town.

"People involved in that house have ties to the state of Ohio," Smith said. "The people did reside in the state of Ohio, but left unexpectedly the week after her body was found."

Police speculate someone snatched Gwinner from the parking lot or near the bowling alley in an attempt to sexually assault her, then suffocated her when she fought back. Police believe her car was dumped in the Great Miami or Ohio river.

Police have repeatedly searched the Ohio River downstream from Cincinnati, as well as the Great Miami River, but have not located the del Sol.

Smith was uncertain when officers will begin searching the Ohio River again using sonar and an underwater camera.

Smith didn't say how important the new information may be.

"Whether it leads to anything or not, we don't know," he said. "Any bit of information or evidence we get, we'll analyze it."
http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060630/NEWS01/606300400/1056
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